From The Rock

Being politically correct in the workplace

By | September 18, 2015

Merriam-Webster defines ­being politically correct as “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.” But political correctness means more than just watching what you say and do. In an article by Kate Lorenz of CareerBuilder.com, it also means learning about others and respecting the differences that make each of us unique. This comes into play even more when co-workers are unsure of what to say or how to act after certain political or cultural events, such as all of the recent news about racism, justice and equality.

So, how exactly do you remain politically correct at work? Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Self assessment – Take a deep internal look at yourself and try to think about any conscious or unconscious prejudices you may have, whether it’s a stereotype, negative feelings toward an individual or group, etc. Making yourself aware of such negative feelings can help you adjust your attitude and behavior appropriately. Like you’ve always heard, admitting it is the first step.
  • External assessment – Once you’ve figured out some of your own prejudices, take some time to do research about what other forms of prejudice are popping up in the news frequently. Open your eyes to other topics and issues that might be offensive to your employer or co-workers. Your research might even lead you to beating your biases, as education in itself can often help people overcome prejudices.
  • Practice makes perfect – Now comes the hard part – putting all of your hard work into action. It usually takes about three weeks to form a habit, so make sure you’re constantly practicing and being mindful of your political correctness. Some things to avoid: politically incorrect language, thoughts and actions; exclusionary, gender-specific language; explicitly religious terms; and expressions that devalue people with physical or mental disabilities.
  • Not-so-golden rule – We’ve always heard the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. However, when it comes to matters of political correctness, this might not always apply. Remember that in heated situations, what doesn’t offend you might entirely offend a co-worker due to their race, religion or background. You never know if what you say could end up repeated. Social media makes word-of-mouth travel even faster (and you never know who is filming you).

It may seem like being politically correct in the workplace isn’t worth it, but studies have shown that political correctness at work can help inspire new creativity among a work team. So, to boost your workplace’s innovation, be respectful of those you work with and avoid uncomfortable and even job-threatening situations by putting these steps into practice every day.

Any tips we didn’t mention? List them in the comments below!